I am a third grade teacher that has been asked by my principal to "provide parents with information or direct them to a proper place" to have their child evaluated for ADD or ADHD. I am told that by "not providing the information I am making the decision for them," and I "do not have that right."

I have always provided parents with information about their child's behavior in the classroom, but have been reluctant to speculate about potential causes or recommend that they see their pediatrician because their child is exhibiting behaviors that are similiar to those of the ADD child.

I have to admit that I am not that educated on this topic, but I have read enough to know that there is disagreement among medical professionals as to whether this is a "chemical imbalance" (as my prinicipal states) and if ritalin (which my principal states "is less dangerous than aspirin if handled correct") has harmful side effects and similar effects on ADD and non-ADD people. Do you think that I have a professional or ethical obligation to inform parents of this possibility? Is it not okay for me to stay out of the reccommending field and just respond to questions and be objective on forms (I did see that you suggest talking with doctors rather than filling out forms, and I have always cringed when completing forms because the questions "impulsive/restless in a squirmy sense" describe many third graders. I would appreciate any advice you could give on this matter. 

It distresses me to hear of your situation with your principal because it reinforces the worst stereotypes of educators pushing parents and kids towards medication. I usually defend teachers (or principals) from this charge even as I know too many families are told to "get a medical evaluation" which is code for get the kid on Ritalin. I get especially ticked when there hasn't been even a cursory educational screening for learning problems before referring the kid for an evaluation. To answer some of your questions -- there has never been any regular link between ADHD behavior and any biochemical abnormality. The evidence of a "chemical imbalance" is often cited based on the response to Ritalin which is dubious for two reasons. First everyone, child or adult, ADHD or not, will be able to focus better when they take Ritalin so improving on the drug is hardly evidence of the disorder or a chemical imbalance. Secondly, aspirin relieves headache but we don't speak of headache as having an "aspirin deficiency."

No doubt some more extreme cases of ADHD have significant neurological abnormality (still not able to pin down the problem) and all of us have our personalities (which are inherent and hereditary) contributing to our behavior. But heredity is not destiny. Environment does make a difference, especially for kids. You should have your principal read a recent resolution of the Colorado State Board of Education which reminded teachers that they must first utilize disciplinary and educational interventions befor recommending referral for a medical evaluation for the problem children in their classrooms. It's sad that such a resolution is deemed necessary at this time. Good Luck and keep asking questions.